Pretending to be Italian and a Chinese Brechtian Alienation Device: Friday 23rd March

As there was no official University business until late this afternoon, I had most of the day to go and explore Beijing at my leisure. After observing the oppressive majesty of Tianaman Square, I entered the nearby Forbidden City, which whilst specifically at times left me feeling overwhelmed by the historical opulence that greeted me at every turn. Towards the end of my time walking around the numerous palaces and gardens I was approached by a lady, who wanted to show me some ‘free’ drawings and calligraphy. Sensing a rat, I decided it best to feign ignorance and so explained that I was an Italian tourist with limited English. When she responded with ‘Ciao’ I began to panic, but thankfully this was the extent of her speaking capabilities in my adopted tongue. Halfway through the ‘tour’ it became clear that whilst the paintings she was showing me were free to look at, she was hoping that I would buy some of them (at vastly inflated prices). Thankfully I was wise to her plan, and so proceeded to take a fake call in Japanese from my Bulgarian colleague, who insisted that I drop whatever it was I was doing and meet him immediately. My ‘guide’ looked slightly taken aback, but my tactic had worked a charm, and for the rest of the day, whenever anyone approached me with trinkets and services for sale, I simply put on my best Italian accent and explained that ‘I nota understand the English so wella.’

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Inside the (evidentially not so) Forbidden City

This afternoon my Tokyo Institute of Technology students worked with those from Tsinghua University, discussing the play that we performed yesterday, and how best we could involve them in tomorrow’s final performance. This was a slightly difficult task, as the range of Japanese language ability was vast (from near fluent to near me), but all of the students coped admirably and seemed to enjoy themselves. I had split the students into three groups, asking each of them to work on one third of the play, and it was very interesting to observe how they went about attempting to incorporate the Chinese students into the performance. One group seemed to come up with idea after idea after idea, whilst another insisted that everyone knew the exact meaning of the play before deciding on any action. The result was that by the end of the session we were able to do a run through of the play, with the Chinese students interspersed among the ‘audience’, acting as a Brechtian alienation device throughout key moments in the play. Fingers crossed for tomorrow!

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About truehamlet

Sam is a senior lecturer in Science Communication, who researches the different ways in which media such as poetry and film can be used to communicate science to new audiences.
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